We don’t have to do anything in particular in order to play (be in the play-state), other than to release certain inhibitions we have about ourselves, others, and “rules.”
To do that, it may be beneficial to practice identifying the other states we assume throughout the day. For most of us, these other states will be characterized by certain “selves.”
For instance, I’ve already discussed The Victim. There are also the roles of “the persecutor,” “protector/rescuer,” “coach,” “challenger,” “cynic,” “skeptic.” And above those there may be others, like the “controller,” the “buddha/enlightened one,” etc.
For more information on this, check out the book (or videos) TED –
We each have our own unique cast of characters. And, though they’ll often assume similar roles, our cast is unlike any other cast. Each role may be played by a different person, depending on our own personal history.
As we go through the day, and experience emotions of different sorts, different characters come in to play.
In order to witness these folks, it is necessary to learn to notice shifts in our energy state – in our emotional or attentional state – as they occur.
When we feel “high,” who is in charge? When we feel “stressed,” who is in charge? When we are in love, who is in charge? When we are angry, who is it? If we feel like we’ve failed at something, who is the voice, the character, that comes up to the front of the stage of our mind?
This process requires awareness and attention, which requires slowing down.
It’s just like learning any new skill. Think about the first time you played a new game of some sort. You had to slow down to learn the technique. You may have “frozen” certain parts of your body or movements in order to work on the technique in pieces. In motor learning it’s called “freeing and freezing degrees of freedom.” You may have moved very clumsily at first, and felt awkward.*
Now aware of this – that learning requires slowing down, and that awkward and clumsy is normal at first – we can begin to play with these selves when they arise.
Here’s a scenario:
I’ve failed at a big task. The “persecutor” self steps forth and begins his monologue about worthlessness, about me being crappy at this thing, about me not being good enough.
But something has changed. I’m aware that it’s the Persecutor talking. And I say to myself, perhaps, something like, “That’s interesting.”
He begins to get anxious. He looks around for help. He tries to find things to distract me…where did I leave my car keys? What time is it?…so he can continue his act.
But I stay aware, calm, slow, breathing, watching him.
Then I observe. Simply observe.
And then, only then, is choice possible.
*on a side note, this process, of freezing our degrees of freedom, happens when we are “psychologically” stressed as well.